Ruth, Maris, McGwire, Bonds Home Run Kings
ESPN aired its latest documentary film 30 for 30, “Long summer” about the 1998 season, when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa chased the elusive MLB home run record previously held by Roger Maris (61 HR in 1961). Since the legendary Babe Ruth set RH’s original record with 60 home runs in 1927, only Maris, McGwire and Barry Bonds holding the single-season record.
The MLB home run record has always been somewhat outrageous and controversial.
Maris had an asterisk next to his name in the record books because MLB grew in the early 1960s and extended the season from 154 games to 162 games. In 1961, Maris didn’t have the same adulation and love that McGwire, Sosa or even Bonds had when trying to break the old record.
If someone with pinstripes was supposed to break Bambino’s record, fans wanted it to be Mickey coat. Plagued by injuries and an affinity for alcohol, Mantle came close with 52 home runs in 1956 and 54 home runs in 1961.
MLB THE MOST HR IN A SEASON
73 Barry Bonds (2001)
70 Mark McGwire (1998)
66 Sammy Sosa (1998)
65 Mark McGwire (1999)
64 Sammy Sosa (2001)
63 Sammy Sosa (1999)
61 Roger Maris (1961)
60 Babe Ruth (1927)
McGwire passed Ruth before Game 154 of the 1998 season, but his record of 70 home runs came under close scrutiny when it was learned that he and Sosa were steroid users.
Barry Bonds broke McGwire’s record in 2001 with 73 home runs. Bonds also only played 153 games that season. In 2003, the bonds were broken into the BALCO steroid scandal. To this day, baseball writers and Hall of Fame voters refuse to elect Bonds in Cooperstown for his involvement with steroids.
Ruth, the king of the original Home Run
In the eyes of purists, Ruth set the original HR record at age 60 as one of the greatest singular achievements of all sports.
To put it in perspective, Ruth hit her 60 home runs at the age of 32. The life expectancy of American men in the late 1920s was only 59 years. He is 74 years old now, a good fifteen years of life extended thanks to advances in medical technology.
If you’ve seen pictures of the Grand Bambino, you know he wasn’t the most athletic guy in the world. He had a large intestine and didn’t hesitate to like beer and hot dogs. The Bambino never concealed his voracious appetite and would be seen munching between the sleeves. But, ball players were a different breed a century ago. The players were smoking in the canoe. The Yankees Batboys had a crucial job of making sure a lit cigarette waited at the top of the canoe steps for Joe DiMaggio after trotting off the field at the end of a heat.
So you’ve got a fun-loving guy who has a hangover all through hell, all the while chain smoking and smashing hotdogs on the bench, all the while still shooting over the fences.
Oh, and Ruth played in a time when the stadiums were a lot bigger. Of course, “The House Ruth Built” still had a little porch in the right field, but you had to throw a dinger 500 feet if you wanted to get it out of the park at a standstill.
Ruth also completed all 60 home runs in a 154-game season. There is no asterisk next to its name. There were also no illegal substances in his bloodstream, unless you had 180 gin-proof and dirty-water-proof hot dogs.
In MLB history, players have only hit 55 or more home runs 19 times. Hall of Fame outfielder Hack Wilson hit 56 HR in 1930 and generated 191 RBIs.
Ken Griffey, Jr. hit 56 home runs in consecutive seasons in 1997 and 1998. For most of the summer of 1998, Griffey also raced home runs with Sosa and McGwire.
In 2001, Luis Gonzalez hit 57 home runs. In 2002, Alex Rodriguez also hit 57 home runs.
Four players reached 58 HR in one season, including McGwire in 1997. Ryan Howard reached the mark in 2006, Hank Greenberg in 1938, and Jimmie Foxx in 1932. Foxx inspired the fierce manager in which Tom Hanks played. “A full league. “
In his second season with the New York Yankees in 1921, Babe Ruth completed 59 home runs. Giancarlo Stanton would equal Bambino’s mark with 59 in 2017.
Ruth, Sosa, Maris, McGwire and Bonds are the only five players to have made 60 or more home runs in a single season. McGwire did it twice, but Sosa slammed over 60 times.
Bonds only managed more than 40 home runs once in his career when he broke McGwire’s 2001 record with 73.
Hank Aaron broke the all-time home run record (previously held by Babe Ruth) with his 715th career HR in 1974. Aaron ended his Hall of Fame career with 755 home runs, but he never hit more 44 circuits in a single season. Bonds currently holds the all-time record with 762.